“Innovation Zones”– A School Redesign for All

I’ve often lamented that the original focus on “innovation” as key to our chartering law in Minnesota 25 years ago has been lost. Over the last decade, the word “innovation” has become diluted. We don’t know what it means.

That’s why I was struck by a March 4 Star Tribune Commentary by former Minnesota Education Commissioner Robert Wedl and two colleagues. They are calling for “Innovation Zones” to go beyond the “organizational innovations” in Minnesota such as open enrollment, post-secondary options, chartering, and teacher-powered schools.

They want the legislature to give permission to research 21st century “instructional models” not permitted by current law. They maintain that a significant barrier to more rapid improvements in our K-12 system may be the design of our “inert system of schools.”

Like other states, Minnesota spends billions of dollars on small improvements to today’s schooling models, but very little on researching design for tomorrow’s schools. How ironic, when Minnesota is home to 3M–the company that forecasts its revenues on products that haven’t been invented yet!

Wedl and colleagues ask: “What if the legislature gave permission to a small number of schools to create “Innovation Zones” focused on developing new instructional designs to customize student learning experiences in ways that would motivate each to excel? Imagine the change in thinking — from a class of 28 to a student of one.”

That describes personalized learning where a student’s aspirations and aptitudes would provide learning motivation and help “bridge the chasm” between classroom and the world beyond.

To me, “Innovation Zones” is the world of targeted or personalized learning. What must happen to “give permission” to our schools to create them? Check out tomorrow’s blogpost.